Business - Business & Economy - News - June 29, 2021

International trade, contracts: Why Nigeria needs expert negotiators – Osinbajo


With the expansion In the scope of continental and international trade and contracts both in Africa and globally, Nigeria requires the services of expert negotiators knowledgeable in drafting trade and contractual agreements, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said.
The VP said having a corps of experienced negotiators, in addition to the already existing Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations established in 2017 would save the country the consequences of poor agreements.
“Nigeria must continue to engage knowledgeable crack teams and subject matter experts to avoid the serious consequences arising from badly negotiated or poorly crafted international economic agreements,” the VP said.
 He spoke on Monday at the opening of a one-day capacity building workshop for negotiators of international economic agreements, jointly organized by the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Inter-Agency Committee on Stopping Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from Nigeria.
The capacity building workshop, he said, would be the start of a structured regular programme of training for negotiators in the initial areas of investment, trade, environment, natural resources and taxation agreements.  
“I expect further down the line that negotiators of other similar agreements in financial, air services, shipping, fishing rights and such like sectors would be included in the programme,” he said.
The objective of the government, the VP noted, must be to build a corps of expert negotiators and subject matter professionals in international economic agreements to develop what should emerge as a national style of negotiations.
Citing agreements that brought about undesirable outcomes for countries, the VP mentioned the Simandou Iron Ore contract in Guinea, the Bilateral Investment Treaty in Pakistan, and the Strategic Alliance Contract in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, among others.
He said poorly negotiated contracts or framework agreements could lead to serious financial losses for countries and economies.
One of the most significant sources of economic loss for a country, he pointed out, was the consequence of poorly negotiated agreements.
Every negotiator, he ssid, must realize he or she is putting the entire nation’s economic prospects on the table every time they negotiate.
“My position is that depending on the size of some of these contracts, and their implications, outside counsels who are subject matter experts, should be involved at all stages of the negotiations,” he said.
Meanwhile, in preparation for the Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 26), Osinbajo urged negotiators from Nigeria and other developing countries to be focused on the issues of a ‘just energy transition’ to the net-zero emission target, including ensuring that gas projects continue to be funded by international financial institutions.
 He said a topical issue, in terms of negotiations, was the preparation for the Climate Change Conference of Parties taking place in the UK towards the end of this year. 
“I expect that the approach that will be taken as we count down to that event will be to compose an interdisciplinary team of experts and negotiators that can engage meaningfully in the talks,” he said.

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